A combination of immunomagnetic cell sorting and ELISPOT techniques has been evaluated to permit enrichment and characterization of antibody-secreting cells (ASC). Cell suspensions containing putative ASC were first incubated with magnetic microbeads coated with antibodies specific for a given cell surface marker. After separation of bead-cell clusters and free cells, the resulting cell populations were examined for the presence of ASC by an ELISPOT assay. As a model system, the expression of selected cell differentiation markers by human circulating ASC has been evaluated after parenteral tetanus vaccination and during the course of a Leishmania infection. Prior treatment of blood MNC with beads coated with antibodies to CD38, HLA-DR or CD19 permitted the isolation of virtually all blood ASC. Further, prior immunomagnetic removal of T (CD2+) cells from blood MNC, followed by isolation of CD38+ cells facilitated the detection of Leishmania major-specific ASC in all six patients examined, whereas parasite-specific ASC among unfractionated blood mononuclear cells could only be detected in 3 out of these six patients. Simple and rapid, this approach provides not only accurate estimates of the frequency of ASC within a given B cell population or subpopulation, but can also efficiently enrich functional ASC from complex cell suspensions and thus should be particularly useful in situations where ASC are present at low frequencies.